Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Speaking Truth in Love | John T. Pless

"... Prior to the Second World War in 1938, Hermann Sasse (1895-1976) penned these words: 'Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie' ...

In this wonderfully lucid little booklet [Union and Confession], Sasse goes on to contrast the truth with the lie. He notes that from the beginning the lie and the truth have done battle within the Church... The lie, Sasse said, takes on various forms. There is the pious lie, that hypocrisy with which man lies to himself, to others and even to God. The pious lie easily becomes the edifying lie. This is the lie that takes comfort in untruth. Sasse sees an example of the edifying lie embraced by medieval Christians when they trusted in the power of the saints, relying on the excess of their merit to further them in the struggle toward righteousness. The edifying lie was the lie unmasked and expelled by the Reformation.

Then there is the dogmatic lie, the assertion that we have come to greater doctrinal maturity and old teachings are to be changed for a more contemporary, relevant theology [a version of C.S. Lewis' "chronological snobbery"]. Finally there is, Sasse warned, the institutional lie when the churches embody the lie in their own life, instituting false teaching as normative.

The struggle between the truth and the lie is, of course, as old as our first parents' deception in Eden (see Gen. 3:1-19), but the battle emerges anew in every generation as the old serpent never tires of repeating his primal question, 'Did God really say?'

In our day, the questions are crafted as to the nature of truth itself, even as fundamental realities... We recognize the darkness of these gray and latter days to paraphrase the hymnist, but that does not lead us to despair, for the light of the Gospel shines the brightest over and against the hopelessness of this age..."

--Rev. John T. Pless is an assistant professor at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.

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